Michael Chabon’s light little story achieves a lot with what seems at the outset not very much. Set on England’s sleepy South Downs towards the end of World War II, and starting off with little more than an old man who keeps bees, a wandering boy who doesn’t talk and a parrot that does, The Final Solution provides a murder mystery, some interesting food for thought on the relation between detection and fiction, and an imaginative “old age” for one of the icons of detective fiction. The tale only slowly and playfully reveals the identity of the detective to the reader – an engaging process of gradual revelation that detection and fiction share.
In this short strange novel, one finds ever more mysteries to discover. One mustn’t forget the mute German boy and his “talking” parrot – in itself an intriguing inversion, a lovely conundrum.
Chabon won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (an excellent novel, available at SMSA), while The Final Solution picked up the Aga Khan Prize for fiction in 2004. If one can see past the American spelling and one’s slightly unsettling awareness that the English setting and subject-matter have been “stolen” by an American writer, this brief touching work turns into a rewarding read.